Maine Alliance for Road Associations
Attached is a drafted report that will be presented to the State and Local Government Committee. If some of you may recall, when our privateway law was changed in 2023, the SLG asked for help about the issue of definitions of the various types of roads. As most of you may know it is very difficult to explain to people the definitions of a Privateway, public easement and a private road. Do you have any feedback about your opinion on the definitions of: Privateway, public easement, discontinued or abandoned roads and private roads?
Well it's clear that members of MARA have no comments about the report. A revision to the document was submitted to SLG committee. Recommendations will be presented. My understanding for road associations that are public easements, that your members PAY for all road repairs and plowing for the public to have unfettered rights to travel your road with NO funding/services from the town (except Windham). We have NO police enforcement on our roads, ATV road abuse and no state or federal emergency funding to help us repair our roads after a state emergency. For myself, I am concerned for the safety and protection of myself and my property.
I think the report was too long for most people to want to read. I've been frustrated that so much time was spent this year with so little progress towards actually solving the problems the Commission was formed to address.
On the plus side, Pete Coughlan of the DOT has been working towards getting information about privately maintained roads more readily available on the DOT mapviewer site. This will be a great help for those looking to buy land. Being able to produce numbers of roads will also help give private roads more clout with the Legislature.
There has also been some progress towards limiting landowner liability on privately maintained roads, both in terms of people who may suffer injury or property damage due to a road defect, and in terms of liability for environmental damage that is not the fault of those who maintain the road.
On the other hand, the Commission has not yet succeeded in untangling the confusing terminology of "private way" and "public easement." The main sticking point is that the term "private way" was supposed to be replaced by the term "public easement," but the term "private way" has been applied to at least three different types of roads.
The other big frustration is that there has been little progress on the issues the Commission was formed to address. How can a town be relieved of the expense of maintaining little-used roads without damaging access to abutting properties? Before 1965, when a road was discontinued it was usually extinguished, leaving abutting properties legally land locked. The "solution" that's been used since 1965 has been to retain a public easement - a road that the public no longer has any obligation to maintain, but which remains open to public use. The result is that the private landowners end up maintaining the road for the public's use at private expense.
The Maine Alliance for Road Associations